Marriage has taught me some valuable lessons about the opposite sex. Men eat a lot more than women. They use a lot less toilet paper. They don’t really care whether you’re wearing makeup. But I think the most important thing that Ethan and I are both learning is that men and women have completely different communication styles.
The classic example of this is the “vent”. Sometimes, women just need to talk. We don’t really need a solution to the problem – we probably already know the solution – we just want you to validate the complaint before we solve it. We might not even want a solution at all. To a man, this is crazy talk. Give him a problem, he finds a solution, and you get mad at him for defusing the rant.
Possibly the most marked difference in communication, however, is the way we ask questions. For example:
See what I mean? This kind of thing leaves men thoroughly perplexed. My husband’s perspective: you can’t expect me to think of everything you might possibly mean when you ask me a question! So please just ask the question that you really mean.
But here’s where it gets a little sticky. I’m a woman. I’m used to speaking with other women. That means I’m used to speaking with other women who also use this cryptic mumbo-jumbo. This is perfectly valid conversation in my brain. To illustrate, here’s how this would go down amongst women:
Now, here’s how that same encounter would go down between a man and a woman:
By this point, Agatha thinks John is deliberately avoiding helping her, and she’s getting pretty ticked off. Meanwhile, John is oblivious to Agatha’s hinting, and trying to figure out why she’s so obsessed with light bulbs all of a sudden.
It’s harder to bridge the divide than you might think. My husband’s solution? Say what you mean. But to a woman, that can sound incredibly rude. For a woman who’s used to dropping and picking up hints, it sounds incredibly tactless to walk into a room and say, “I’m hungry, and I don’t feel good. I want you to make me some soup and a piece of toast.” But just saying, “I’m hungry. I don’t feel good,” doesn’t get the point across for a guy. For a girl, it would be enough – girls are used to asking the follow-up questions. “Oh, I’m sorry. Can I get you anything? Do you want me to make you some food?” For a guy, though, it just sounds like a random statement. “I’m hungry, too. My hair is black. Yesterday, there was frost on the pumpkins. This is a weird conversation you’re starting here.” So the problem is, when women talk, they expect a man to read their minds. This doesn’t sound unreasonable to a woman, because women already consider what the other person means to say way more than what they actually say. Which is why there are times when a man mentions, “I’m having a hard time sleeping,” and three days later the woman comes home with some lavender essential oil to help him sleep. Her thought: you wanted a sleep aid. His thought: I don’t remember saying anything about alternative healing ever before in my life. What are you talking about?
Ethan and I are still working on this one. We’ve reached the general agreement that if I want something specific, and he’s not getting the hint, I’ll be tactless. If he’s saying something that might contain a hint, I’ll ask him whether he’s hinting at something, or just stating the facts. I’ll ask him before I go out and buy essential oils for him. He’ll ask me why I care so much about light bulbs all of a sudden. And generally speaking, we’ll both ask a few more questions to make sure we’re on the same page. We’re learning. Slowly, but we’re learning. ♥